TCT :: I have no idea what to call this post about masturbation

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By Malebo Moloto

“I’m not ashamed of the things I dream,

I find myself flirting with the verge of obscene,

Into the unknown, I will be bold,
I’m going to places I can be out of control.

And I don’t want to explain tonight, all the things I’ve tried to hide,

I shut myself from the world so I can draw the blinds and I’ll teach myself to fly.

I love myself, it’s not a sin, I can’t control what’s happening.

Cause I just discovered imagination is taking over, another day without a lover,

The more I come to understand the touch of my hand…”

The touch of my hand….that what Britney Spears coons over a beat! Masturbation!! Masturbation!! Masturbation!!! What is it about that word that makes me giggle like a school girl? Most people aren’t willing to even say the word, much less have a discussion about it. But today, we are going to talk about this taboo topic no matter how much we are embarrassed, giggly or outright grossed out. Let’s talk about it and open the platform for healthy dialogue on a topic that everyone, yes everyone, wants to know about.

I’m hoping that in our conversation will lead to us having a clearer understanding of the role, or lack thereof, of masturbation in the life of Christian. I hope that Scripture will not be used out of context or become victim to personal interpretation, but that it will be a definitive and powerful source of truth. Now the Bible does not discuss masturbation, as in nowhere in the Bible is the word mentioned or even forbidden, so the natural starting point would be to define what masturbation really is. In laymen terms, it’s the act of pleasuring yourself sexually either with “the touch of your hand” or other…um, electronic methods (stay with me, I’m giggling as I write this too) and other ways that lead to sexual release in any way. Now worldly wisdom tells us that masturbation is a healthy way of life, as a single guy or girl, and even in marriage. It is encouraged as a way of self-exploration, self-love, self-knowledge, if you will.

For me, the term “healthy sexuality” presupposes that we have a good idea of what our sexuality is and does, and I would argue that, for the most part, both our culture and church have fairly distorted models of what sexuality is supposed to look like. Part of the reason that we struggle with the question of masturbation is because we have trouble living in the tension of our desires. It’s easier to fall back into the black and white rules that we’re often offered as answers to our struggles instead of doing the hard work of encountering our desires and longing for relationship with God.

For the most part, we’ve been given two sets of rules to follow when it comes to our sexuality: it’s either we respond to it like an appetite, like hunger, we feed it; or to avoid it completely or as something to be expressed only in covenanted conjugal relationships.

This false dichotomy and both of these paradigms tend to end up in dysfunction. We either find ourselves at the mercy of our “needs” which leads to a low grade despair, or divorced from the life and pleasure that sexuality brings, living in a kind of discontented numbness.

What I’m getting at is that sexuality is not wrong, desire and sex where all created by God and it’s a beautiful thing. When thinking of masturbation, we have to think about it in terms of lust, since the word itself is not found in the Bible. Lust is a strong desire, and in this case, a strong sexual desire. It’s a strong overwhelming desire for something or someone.  It is self-indulgent as it seeks just to please self. Now since the Bible doesn’t mention that masturbation is a sin, that doesn’t mean it’s a hard and fast rule to completely say it is not wrong.

In my opinion (since that’s what this is), I am more interested in what gets someone to masturbate, more than the actual act. What’s of significance is what causes people to masturbate because we cannot simply provide a “yes” “no” answer without exploring the root of the issue.

For the manifestation in the physical, your thought life would have already taken you down the rabbit hole till it manifests itself physically.

Now, there is a school of thought that says masturbation can be done with a pure heart and mind and I respectfully disagree. Scripture tells us that, “you have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who has looked a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Jesus here tells us that before you even commit the act, by letting it take root in your mind, you have committed the sin. Therefore, it starts in our thought life, that is where it takes root and that leads to sin.

Also, masturbation is self-centred, as it seeks only to please self.

The issue is also the nature of masturbation. It’s all secretive and shameful and leaves people feeling guilt, even to the point of not being able to be in the presence of the Father because you have condemned yourself. The issue is that, for some people it can become a crutch in order to avoid healthy interactions and relationships with people, a way to shield them from being hurt.

For some people it is because they are lonely, bored etc. It is not as simple as saying it is about fulfilling desire and that there are no consequences because for a lot of people masturbation is an escape. It’s a way of dealing, without dealing……it comes down to wholeness.

The issue with masturbation or any other “thing” for that matter, is that it comes down to what is missing and what you think this “thing” will fill, what way do you think it will make you feel whole or complete.

So, I think that it goes beyond the act, because by already thinking it, you have already committed it. It goes to being pure in thought, heart and motive. We must make sure that our thought life aligns with the word of God and that we take hold of every thought that exalts itself above Him and make it submit to the word of God.

President George Q. Cannon, a former counsellor in the First Presidency of the Church, said:

“If a man be pure in thought, he will be correspondingly pure in action; but if he allows his mind to roam in unrestricted freedom through the various avenues of evil or to dwell unchecked upon the contemplation of forbidden indulgences, it will not be long before his feet tread those paths and his hand plucks the tempting but deceitful fruit.”

So may take on it is that masturbation is the manifestation of a sinful thought life.

What say you?

Gayness, God and Everything In Between :: His story and a candid cafe conversation

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*This is the last of the stories I am going to share on my series about homosexuality. If you would like to know where I stand with this currently, please see the Questions and Answers post which is a good summary of my position.

The first part of this post is the story that my friend *Tertius agreed to share. The second part of it is a follow up conversation I had with him. I have changed a few things to preserve his anonymity but the facts remain substantially the same.

To be honest, I don’t know when exactly I knew I was gay, I think that’s like the same sort of question as “when did you know you were right-handed?”. You start writing, and well, you get comfortable with using one hand or the other. I mean you can use the other hand, but its just not quite as ‘right’ as using your ‘natural’ hand for writing. Growing up I dated many girls, kissed many girls, but it definitely didn’t mean anything to me. I did the things that I was expected to do because well, that’s what boys did. But as you get older, and you gain a more thorough understanding of the world around you; you realize there are “others” in the world: those men that don’t like women. They like other men.

You also immediately pick up on the societal wrongness of this fact; I suppose this is because as a child you a born completely innocent: free from discrimination.

So when you learn that there are men who like other men; because of socialization, you are more easily able to pick up that its socially perceived to be “wrong”. But from your own understanding, free from discrimination and prejudices (not properly institutionalized in you yet), you don’t quite grasp why. But then again, as a child, when something is “wrong”, you don’t interrogate it because it generally leads to a smack or someone shouting at you.

So when you discover the existence of gays, you sense its wrong from the world around you and through institutionalization/socialization you eventually figure out why – but you dare not challenge it. In not challenging it, you go with it. In my encounters with girls not meaning anything and on the other hand, a strange attraction to other boys, coupled with my understanding that the “others” exist, I started to wonder if I maybe was a part of them! For a lot of people, this is an extremely hard realization ~ when you start to think your not “normal” and all the stigma that’s associated with it. That’s why for a lot of people, they can go through denial for many years. For others, well, they come to terms with it.

I don’t ever think I “came to terms with it” per se. I mean, I figured I was gay a very long time ago, I didn’t think about it – similarly to the fact that I don’t think about how I like chocolate ice-cream and you like strawberry. I tried to hide it from other people because they seemed to be the ones which had a problem with it. In hiding it, I continued to try assimilate with the rest of society; so I dated more girls, kissed more girls… and still nothing.

When your older than 16 and you know whats going on, and kissing girls doesn’t mean anything, you kind of figure that you are gay and obviously so do other people, and they keep you at arms length.

I think its really rough for the gays growing up (or at least it was for me) because no one speaks about it. So gays have no one they can talk to about this extremely weird and absolutely awkward experience: its hard for you to fathom and understand this question, but: imagine not being normal?

Normal in the sense that they ‘rest’ of the world behaves one way & you’re the only person that you know who does not. Think of it as being the only green person in the world and then imagine there’s a stigma associated with it. You feel so alone, because who do you speak to; you can’t admit you have the gayness, and yet no one else seems to have this gay-thing! You can’t possibly understand this gay thing, and what makes it worse is, because the non-gays don’t know anything about gayness,

They have all these strange preconceived ideas: like gay boys just want to jump every other male. Not true! Just like a non-gay doesn’t jump anything with a skirt, we don’t want to sex everything with a penis. But of course no one understands this.

I kind of always knew I was gay: but did not come out until I was at University. Even that I didn’t do until half way through first year: a friend of mine who I suspected was gay, almost figured I was gay, and eventually we told each other and well came to the grand idea that we should “come out together”. Which was great. I mean at least we had each other for support. But as we soon found out, nothing much changed. I mean, its not like a heavy weight was lifted off our shoulders; but I would associate that to the fact that our University is a safe space, a lot more ‘safe’ than some parts of the rest of the world.

I suppose in coming out, my friend and I had to figure out what “being out” meant. Does this mean that we must/can be ‘all gay in your face’ because we are out now and we don’t care what other people think? Slowly I figured out that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all. It just means that other people can know, and that you’ve come to terms with it.

The funny thing is, I haven’t told my mum or some of my friends outside the University town. My friends who do know that I’m gay often ask why. It is out of a sort of weird respect: I don’t think she’d be comfortable with it. And that’s fine, I accept that. In telling her, what would I be hoping to accomplish, versus what it would achieve? I mean I’m sure it would ruin our relationship (to a certain extent). So why tell her? I mean, I’m happy with her not knowing, and she’s happy not knowing (comparing her now to if she knew), why ruin it? It is twisted, I know.

In terms of my belief in God: well, let me categorically state: Being gay is not a choice! I didn’t wake up one day and think its cool to be gay. I don’t think anyone would. I assure you we’re not “liking things”! Having said this, I would conclude that God doesn’t discriminate against gays. Why would He? The almighty Lord of all the Universe hates gays? Really?! No, sorry, I can’t fathom such.

My experience with Christians is that I’m yet to be faced with someone who is vehemently publicly anti-gay. It might be because I’m gay that we haven’t bumped into each other. But generally, the people I’m associated with don’t have a problem with it. Those that do have a problem don’t judge and keep that aspect ‘hush-hush’ – we don’t engage. How it affects them, I don’t know. It doesn’t affect me – because I’m not the sort of person to impose my ideologies on to other people: I believe X, you believe Y; You like Coca-Cola, I like Creme-Soda, good for us!

This is my own personal experience of being gay. How other people have experienced it and perceived it will completely different; and by no accounts should I be interpreted as speaking on “behalf” of all gays.

Our cafe conversation:

Shula: Do you think our University is generally accepting of or against homosexuality?

Tertius: The way I look at our university has changed. When I arrived in first year I hadn’t come out yet. At that time I felt like it was a very cool place, you could just be yourself, everybody’s friends with one another, it’s great! Then I started to realise that everyone’s just wearing this nice mask and it’s all fake, superficial, everyone’s “chilled” with everything all the time as long as it doesn’t affect me. If you want to be gay over there, good for you! But if you hit on me I’ll kill you.

Shula: Assuming that you grew up being taught that homosexuality was unacceptable or inappropriate, what brought you to the place of going against what you had been taught?

Tertius: I don’t know. I thought about it earlier today. I can’t say what was the defining moment … This is a very awkward story, but I went on holiday with my cousins and we stayed at a place that was managed by a gay man. That was probably my closest encounter with another homosexual, knowing that I am probably on the same team as him.

And he became an idol because he’s out and he’s gay and he’s old and those that are around him treat him like a human and the world hasn’t come crumbling down. And I became more and more attracted to him. And we eventually hooked up. It was a completely nerve-wracking experience, of course, “What does it mean?” blah blah. But I knew that it felt right. I had had relationships with girls and felt nothing.

But there was something there. Then everyone found out and I was like, “Ok, let’s put that back into the box.”

I came to this University because it had a reputation for being quite liberal and ‘the gays’ are allowed. That was an exciting experience because you see a wide variety… different people associate different things to it. Halfway through my first year I knew different cliques and they all experienced it differently. Eventually, I took the leap of faith and I suppose that was the most traumatic thing because I was just like, What does it mean to me?”  

Shula: Do you feel like being gay is an inseparable part of your identity? Have you thought about that?

Tertius: Personally, I don’t associate myself with any institution. I don’t see myself as South African, white/black, or gay. I don’t necessarily like it when someone says, “Oh, here’s Tertius, he’s gay!” Why must that be the opening line? I think I’m a mixture of many things and it is part of who I am.

I don’t necessarily like the stereotypes that come with it either. I don’t agree with everyone going, “Baby girl, oh baby girl!”, because I’m still a male, I just happen to like other males. I haven’t had a sex change.

Shula: Do you feel like at all ‘activistic’ about homosexuality because you’re gay? I know you don’t define yourself by your gayness but you are a passionate person with convictions, you are a leader. Is this area divorced from that side of you?

Tertius: I can’t say that I necessarily have a passion for gay rights. I would fight for gay rights as much as I would fight for anyone else’s. I don’t put that at the forefront of what I do just because I am gay. Also, how it’s done does not always sit well with me. This [conversation] I feel is a much more effective means of conveying homosexuality not, for example, gay Pride Week where we all fabulously march down the street. We’re now shoving things down people’s throat and antagonising them. I don’t see heterosexuals having a ‘Straight Week’.

Shula: Okay, so what do you think about the stereotypical ‘gay’ lifestyle? The idea that all gay people are artists / fashion designers/ interior decorators and that there is evidence to back up that stereotype?

Tertius: I think it is very misunderstood by non-homosexuals and homosexuals. In it being misunderstood I think it is a kind of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’.

It is hard to say which came first- the chicken or the egg. I think that gay people are ‘othered’ as being gay so a gay person needs to establish for themselves what that means. It’s not something that you can go and speak to someone else about. Who would you speak to? And so, one needs to pick up on the little hints that they get along the way. One watches Fashion TV and sees: “It’s fabulous DAHLING!” and some people associate it with that and therefore follow that because that’s what they like to see as being gay and that’s what they become. I don’t want to be fabulous nor be a fashion designer or cut hair, you know?

Shula: You describe yourself as an agnostic. What does that mean to you?

Tertius: For me, it means that I don’t necessarily associate with any type of religion. I separate religion from God. Religion is a humanistic political thing. There is a super-being, a God and I dissociate myself from religion.

Shula: My view is that ‘religion’ on the one hand is a set of beliefs, practices and traditions. Then there’s ‘religion’ which entails our understanding of God. Christianity is an example and we believe in things like the supremacy of the Bible, Jesus as God and not just a man. And religion is what we have made of that, the way we choose to live our lives based on what we believe.

What I believe is that there is a God who created everyone. And He is supreme and He is above everyone else, He created everyone for a purpose. It’s kind of like how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook. He conceived it in his mind and formed it for a purpose. He put in its DNA, how everything is going to work and he put in the formulas.

I think with the issue of sexuality, my view is that, if God created people, sex, reproduction, sexual attraction and desire then the way we understand all of sexuality (not just homosexuality) must be from the point of view of the person who created it. I can explain a painting to you from what I see, but only the Painter can explain to me fully [even truthfully].

Tertius: That’s the thing with art. The way that you explain this picture, the way I explain this picture, and the way that the creator explains this picture could be completely different and I think that that also applies to what we’re speaking about.

Shula: I agree. But the creator is the one who would know the truth right? I know you talked about how each of us have different beliefs and that’s okay. But have you ever thought whether homosexuality is right? Do you ever wonder?

Tertius: I love that question… I’m going to get shot, particularly if people like *Kris ever hear me. My theory on homosexuality is that it is a mental disorder-

Shula: And you’re not joking?

Tertius: I’m not joking. I believe that humans are not necessarily put one way or the other. I think that who you are right now is predominantly by social construct. The clothes you wear, how you wear them, the way you behave – everything that you are. [The world] enforces a system upon each one of us that makes us who we are and everyone around you enforces it because that is the way that everyone is…

Applying that to homosexuality, my idea is that there is a psychological dysfunction somewhere and I think that it has something to do with the relationship between a person’s parents in early childhood… which leads the child to go off the road which the system is supposed to be reaffirming. I’ve engaged with many other gays and everyone seems to have a parental issue and it’s got something to do with the father. It really has something to do with the father. I’ve had it personally and when I start to see it in other people, I recognise it a lot better. There are a couple of people that I know that have daddy issues.

Shula: So you say that you have experienced it personally. What is it about the daddy relationship?

Tertius: I don’t know. I think that there’s a conflict between the two parents and there’s a negative relationship between the father and the son at a particular stage. Between the three parties there is some breakdown.

Shula: Do you think it is possible for someone to make a choice with regards to this? Is it something that one feels compelled to act on? Is it possible to choose?

Tertius: I think that people are not necessarily born homosexual or gay. I think that as a new-born baby, you don’t have any of these things: you’re not homosexual, you’re not racist. Having said that, I do not think that it is a choice, I think it is how you as an individual have developed. Because I find that people don’t choose to be racist either, they just are. And it’s not their fault, it really isn’t, it’s just how they’ve been brought up. I don’t think anyone chooses who they are attracted to. I don’t think that I could choose to be straight. I have tried for many years to be straight, I can fake it but it doesn’t work.

Shula: Thank you Tertius, I appreciate that honest answer.

One of the things that I believe is that we can have a relationship with God. God is not far away. I believe that human beings were created to be in a relationship with God, we understand ourselves by asking God: “Who am I?” I found that I understood who I was when I went to God and decided that I wasn’t going to come with my own ideas about who I am, I am actually going to allow God to show me who I am. I believe that God is loving and He’s not cruel or malevolent. I believe that it is possible for a person to change. I don’t define myself by the struggles I have had in the arena of sexuality and I don’t feel that I have to act on every desire. An extreme example would be, just because I really really feel like killing someone, that doesn’t mean I should go ahead and do it.

Tertius: So, like, we want to steal but we don’t do it.

Shula: Exactly. That has been my personal experience, I have changed, I have seen people change. Do you think that a person can change? Is it possible? Should we be asking that question, is it important? I’m not talking about forced change but a person deciding for themselves.

Tertius: Possibly… Perhaps not. If one were to change it would probably be on the basis of resolving the crux. Remember I talked about the relational breakdown? Whatever that deep underlying thing is… or several things that have led you to feel or believe a particular way, those things would have to be resolved. Maybe then one would be more at liberty with doing that. But I don’t think it’s a case of “One day I’m to wake and I’m going to do this.” because the underlying subconscious thing is still there… I think you can be rehabilitated to a certain degree but that doesn’t mean that the urges have stopped they are just now have been institutionalized such that you don’t act them on them.

                                                                                                                             [Pause]

This conversation is not over, it only just started! Many of you have been reading the posts that make up this series but have not had the chance to share your views on the issue. Please take some time to respond below, your voice is an important part of this conversation. Also, feel free to share this with your friends and start talking about things that matter!

What is your personal position on homosexuality?

What do you think God thinks about homosexuality and homosexuals?

Moving forward, what are some things that you are still grappling with with regards to this topic?

Thanks for reading.

shula.